The Canada We Want: Competing Visions for the New Millennium


234 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7737-3166-0
DDC 971.064'8




Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein, distinguished research professor emeritus of history
at York University. He is the author of Who Killed Canadian History? and
co-author of The Canadian 100: The 100 Most Influential Canadians of the
20th Century, Prime Ministers: Ranking


Books by politicians are ordinarily written to serve electoral or
partisan purposes. The author wants to get elected, win a leadership
convention, crusade for a cabinet seat, or simply demonstrate that he
can think. Happily, this book by Toronto Liberal Member of Parliament
John Godfrey falls into the latter category. (Since his commissioning a
psychological study of Lucien Bouchard became public, Godfrey’s
chances of political promotion are slim to nonexistent.) Written with
consultant Rob McLean, Godfrey’s The Canada We Want is surprisingly
thoughtful and clear.

Godfrey and McLean argue that Canada used to have national
projects—medicare, quality education, the social safety net, the
flowering of culture—and needs them once more to galvanize this
fractious nation. And what are these new projects to be? The authors
propose five: a project on developmental health, a project to improve
the lot of Canada’s children, a project on trend-setting energy
systems, a project on new educational media, and a project (now dated)
on Y2K. If we can raise our sights to such projects, the authors argue,
we can overcome our nitpicking obsessions with federalism,
French–English relations, language, and region. “Why don’t we
simply agree,” they ask plaintively, “that we want Canada to
continue to be recognized as the best society in the world, and just get
on with it?”

If only. The difficulty is that all their new national projects (like
all the old ones) pit province against province, region against region.
Who gets what? is the constant Canadian refrain, and it is not likely to
cease just because Godfrey has a few good ideas. The point, however, is
that this book does have some good ideas that deserve study and
implementation. Who knows? They just might work.


Godfrey, John, and Rob McLean., “The Canada We Want: Competing Visions for the New Millennium,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 16, 2024,